Marriage for girls who haven’t hit puberty or had a chance to get an education is the norm in Yemen, where a majority of girls are married off before they hit their teenage years.
“My father married off my sisters, and wants to marry me off by force, but I don’t want to get married,” a 12-year old Yemini girl, Halima, told CNN. “I’m in the fifth grade. I want to finish school. I want to become a doctor, God willing,” she said.
Halima’s sister was also forcibly wed to an almost 30-year-old man when she was only 13. “If I had the choice, I would have gone to school and been educated. I didn’t want to get married. I was coerced. There was nothing for me in marriage as a child,” Kafa, Halima’s sister, told the news outlet. More than two-thirds of Yemeni girls are married off by their fathers before they reach their 18th birthday.
While many Yemeni fathers do not wish to marry their daughters off — aware of the enormous suffering that the girls experience as a results — they are doing so more frequently to receive money via dowry so that they can support the other members of their family. The civil war in Yemen has also caused food prices to rise over 200 percent, increasing the cost of living.
More than 8,600 people have been killed and 49,000 injured since March 2015 in an ongoing civil war, according to BBC.
“Many daughters have been given away by families who wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that before,” Yemeni Save the Children spokesperson, Nadine Drummond said, explaining that many fathers marry their daughters off because they don’t see any other economically viable options. Some 4.5 million children and pregnant women also face malnutrition according to its website.
“Unfortunately, many Yemenis see early marriage as a virtue. And war has made it worse,” Ahmed Al-Qureshi, a Yemeni child rights activist, told CNN. He notes that the tradition is so ingrained in Yemeni culture that change is unlikely to come soon. Exasperated by unrest and political chaos, young girls in Yemen will most likely continue to suffer in the foreseeable future.
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